Helen Bournas-Ney

Fake Lemon Tree on a November Day in a Boat Depot in Chelsea
June 22, 2023 Bournas-Ney Helen

Fake Lemon Tree on a November Day in a Boat Depot in Chelsea


O lemon tree, how you emerge, distinct from everything
around you. I’ve passed you often at the pier, each time
arrested by your solitary presence. A sink, bare table,
and two empty chairs sit quietly behind the glass front
of the office where you’re planted, as if you were
chief officer of some mysterious and
lonely enterprise.


Your leaves, your certain yellow, hold center stage
on this November day with its hours running toward
losses. You’re cheap, a fake, but still – you’re constant.
With you I never have to worry – will too much rain curl
up the edges of your leaves, will you come back after
the unexpected frost? You’re true-blue, or at least
a perpetually plastic-yellow.


Your warmer sisters elsewhere, lemon trees in Yuma County
and Tulare, lemoniés in Crete and Poros, limoneros in Valencia
and Oaxaca, trees that glow and ripen, their fruit picked lovingly
and placed on tables – a longer, shorter, and more complicated
tale is what they tell. Celebration of the juice. Tenderness
for what is left behind. A song of what is difficult:
the fragrant and the bitter rind.

Helen Bournas-Ney was born in Ikaria, Greece, and grew up in N.Y.C.  She received the Anaïs Nin Award for her work on Rimbaud and George Seferis. Her work has appeared in Plume-online, One Sentence Poems, The Ekphrastic Review, Bacopa Literary Review, Mom Egg ReviewErgon Greek/American Arts and Letters, Blue Heron, “30 Days of Poetry” sponsored by the New York Society Library, and the anthology Plume Poetry 7. Her poetry was nominated for Best of the Net 2021 and was heard on NPR’s Morning Edition for National Poetry Month 2023. She is currently preparing a collection of her poems.